Butterfield Introduces Bill to Honor George Henry White

Feb 11, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) along with Congresswoman Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (NC-12), Congressman Gregory F. Murphy, M.D. (NC-03), and Congressman David E. Price (NC-04) introduced the George Henry White Commemorative Stamp Act.  The bill directs the U.S. Postmaster General to issue a commemorative postage stamp in honor of George Henry White, the last African American to serve in Congress during the Reconstruction Era.  

“George Henry White was a persistent and thoughtful advocate for his constituents and all African Americans,” said Butterfield.  “He relentlessly stirred the conscience of both his Congressional colleagues and all Americans to embrace racial justice and equality for all people.  In the midst of Black History Month, it’s fitting that we take time to look back at the actions of our ancestors and honor their contributions to our country.  George Henry White paved the way for me and others like me to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and I am proud to honor his legacy by introducing this bill.” 

“When George Henry White left Congress, he was the last African American Congressman for 28 years, which is historic in its own right” said Adams. “However, he foresaw that we would rise again in Congress like a ‘phoenix.’ His description, in his farewell speech, of African Americans as an ‘faithful, industrious, loyal, rising people – full of potential force’ rings true today, and is a reminder that our potential is limitless.”

“During Reconstruction in the South, George Henry White courageously stood up to racial injustice in a hostile time period for African Americans,” said Murphy. “The cause of Civil Rights in this country was only advanced because of strong and brave leaders like him. He is certainly deserving of the honor this legislation would bestow upon him and I hope for its swift approval.”

"George Henry White, a descendant of slaves, rose to the serve in the nation’s most powerful body -- Congress – toward the end of reconstruction,” said Price. “As the last and only African American to serve during the 55th Congress, he laid the strong foundation for future African American leaders to build upon by boldly calling for an end to white supremacy and working toward a future of equal opportunity.  I’m proud to join my North Carolina colleagues in pushing for this most fitting tribute to George Henry White’s legacy.”

 

Background:

A native of New Bern, North Carolina, George Henry White served in both the North Carolina House of Representatives and Senate.  In 1896, the people of the Second Congressional District of North Carolina elected White to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

While serving in the House, Congressman White was an outspoken advocate for civil rights and economic and social justice for African Americans.  Notably, he was the first Member of Congress to introduce legislation making lynching a federal crime.  He would only serve two terms in the House.  His departure from Congress resulted from disenfranchisement laws passed in 1900.  

In his farewell speech on the eve of his departure from Congress White said, “This is perhaps the Negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised and bleeding, but God-fearing people; faithful, industrious, loyal, rising people – full of potential force.” 

Congressman Butterfield represents the First Congressional District which is comprised of much of the same area Congressman White represented nearly 120 years ago.  

 

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